The first half hour of the school day sets the tone for how the rest of the time until dismissal will go. This blog post will detail how I start each school day in an organized, efficient, and productive way to decrease behavior issues and get the entire day off to a great start. These ten simple steps are guaranteed to make your mornings better even than a Starbuck Venti does… and coming from me that is saying A LOT!
This blog post will…
- suggest 10 simple steps towards a better morning with your students
- recommend strategies you can begin incorporating in your day today
- help you run your classroom smoothly and without stress
- recommend a helpful classroom management resource
GREET STUDENTS AT THE DOOR
Whenever possible greet each student individually. Use eye contact, smile and let the children know you are happy they are there. For many children, the transition to school is challenging (even many months into the year). The greeting not only welcomes them back to school but also makes a connection and shows that you care. It is also an opportunity for you to assess each child’s mood and be proactive in addressing a situation that could otherwise impact their learning for that day.
- Ideally, I recommend standing in the doorway and greeting each child as they enter. Position yourself so you can see both the students in the hallways and the students who have entered the classroom already.
- As the students are settling in and doing their morning work you can walk around and briefly chat with each child. With some kids, you will need to ask specific questions because “how are you” typically elicits “fine” or “good” even if it isn’t true. Instead ask, “What did you have for breakfast?” or “Is there anything you want to tell me about what happened since I last saw you?”
- You could also start the day by saying, “Show me with your thumb how you are feeling this morning.” A thumbs up indicates they are feeling great, a thumb down represents that things aren’t good and a thumb to the side means something may be wrong. Alternatively, you can make this part of the morning routine where children automatically greet you as they come in with a ‘thumb signal.’ This will let you know who you should check in with. The discrete, non-verbal nature of the act often enables kids to open up even if they weren’t prone to approaching you to share the news.
PLAY A MORNING SOUNDTRACK
There is always a buzz at the start of the day. Students have to put things away. They want to share stories with you. They have tasks to complete to be ready to learn. It can be chaotic. To “calm the chaos” I implemented the use of a “Morning Soundtrack” and it worked great!
As the children enter the classroom, I start a song. They have until the song ends to complete the process of unpacking and getting settled. They became familiar with the songs and anticipate how much time they have. This allows the students to pace themselves and our day gets started in a very timely manner.
I play a different song each day of the week and have always used the following criteria to select the songs that are played:
- Use songs that are appropriate for the classroom
- Pick songs that appeal to the developmental age you teach.
- Create a playlist that is upbeat and catchy to set a positive tone and fill the room with energy for the day.
- The song should provide just enough time to get everything on the morning to do list checked off and get settled and be ready to start the day.
HAVE A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Some teachers have the kids go directly to their locker, cubby, or the coat closet, but because space is often tight it can be too crowded and the noise level may get really loud. I find it is better to have the students proceed straight to their seats where they have a bit more room to spread out and get settled. In my classroom, the students walk to their table and take their lunch boxes, snacks, homework, folders, and library books out of their backpacks. They then take off their outerwear and put hats and gloves into the sleeve of their coat to keep everything together. The children are then responsible for putting everything in the designated spots and starting their morning work.
You should have designated spaces that are consistent for each of the following:
- parent communication folders or binders
- lunch boxes / lunch money
- library books
- musical instruments (if applicable)
Each of those should be clearly labeled and consistent and you may want to assign select students some specific jobs to ensure the morning runs smooth and that everything is organized.
It’s important that the children have a few moments to chat with their friends which means you will need to find the perfect balance of time to accomplish the necessary tasks and still be settled in for morning work.
For me, the morning song mentioned above really helps to define the allotted timeframe and when used in conjunction with clear and consistent expectations of the unpacking routine, the classroom runs itself and each day begins on a positive note.
It is important to keep accurate attendance records not only for documentation on report cards, but also to ensure a child has arrived safely at school.
Taking attendance is something you will need to do as soon as possible each morning. I have experimented with many different methods for taking attendance and have found that in addition to being a mandatory task, it can also be a great activity to help you get to know your students better or to embed some math practice.
I encourage you to read my related blog post that shares some valuable tips and creative ideas for taking attendance and recording who is present and who is absent each morning.
The following tips are also important enough to be given elaboration beyond this one blog post. You can read about each in its own post linked below, or for the sake of convenience, you can download my eBook, workbook and printable resources to make your job easier and the tasks more purposeful.
COLLECT HOMEWORK AND NOTES
To simplify the steps of the morning routine, you can set up a “check-in” station.
- Set yourself up at your small group teaching table.
- Have a clipboard for lunch count and attendance.
- Put out a container for communications from home (dismissal changes, parent notes), a container for forms and money (field trip permission slips, book orders.), and a container for homework.
- Have each student approach you as part of the morning routine. Greet the student personally, check his folder, place items into the sorted container and take his lunch order.
This process moves quite quickly yet enables the teacher to take care of all business while still connecting with the children. It also increases accountability for turning in homework which in turn increases the likelihood that a child will complete the homework. This method will also let you make sure students who have brought a lunch from home remember to place it into the laundry basket.
If you decide to try this method, a great option is to use plastic drawers that slide all the way out of the box. You can place each on the table for the students to put their things into and then slide them into the box to save space and stay organized.
UPDATE DISMISSAL INFO
I have an entire post dedicated to ending the day and the dismissing the students (because let’s be honest that is typically Crazy Town if not done right).
Be sure to notify the office and update your classroom dismissal chart when a student brings in a note with a change in dismissal. If additional changes come in via email or a phone call during the school day you will need to update them again.
Always confirm that the child knows about the change as soon as you learn of it. Just because a student hands you a note stating he is not taking the bus home doesn’t mean his mom remembered to tell him. Check with the child as soon as you read the note and review the dismissal changes just prior to the students leaving the classroom.
TAKE STUDENT LUNCH COUNTS
Even when there are no money transactions involved, the classroom teacher is often still responsible for communicating a lunch count to the cafeteria. The goal should be to decrease the amount of class time used to collect lunch orders and to create a system that limits disruption.
The blog post titled, __, shares ideas for
- recording what your students want for lunch
- communicating it to the cafeteria
- embedding math, language arts, and social skills into the process
- creating an organized method for taking lunch count
START EACH DAY THE SAME WAY
Oh my goodness…Aside from dismissal, this has been the time of day that I have tweaked more than any other.
I found that each of the following had an important place and time in our classroom, but first thing in the morning just wasn’t it:
- journals and writing prompts
- math morning work
- unfinished work from a previous lesson
- free choice
- math vocabulary work
You can read the details of my trial and error and the perfect solution at my blog post titled, ____.
HOLD A MORNING MEETING
Having your entire class routinely come together to begin each school day is essential to creating a strong classroom community and a positive learning environment.
Now, with that being said, I truly believe there is no right or wrong way to hold a class meeting. Instead, it is a matter of finding what works best for you and the cohort of students in front of you each year. That means that now only will your meeting be unique to you, but it may also look different each and every year.
To learn more about class meetings you may want to check out some of the resources below. To learn more about my thoughts and experiences with a morning meeting, I welcome you to visit the post titled, “___.”
REVIEW THE SCHEDULE
There are so many benefits to displaying a visual schedule in your classroom. I have found that it not only keeps me focused and on track but also greatly decreases behavior issues by reducing the anxieties some students feel when they don’t know what to expect.
I feel it is important to not only have your schedule in view of the students, but I also think it should be interactive.
- Discuss the plan for the day at the close of morning meeting.
- Note any specialists or changes to the routine that may occur.
- Reference the schedule throughout the day by reminding students what will come next.
- Mark the schedule like a visual checklist to show what has been accomplished and what is left to do.
- Review the schedule and reflect on the schedule at the close of the school day just prior to dismissal.
You can check out lots of photos, ideas, and examples of classroom schedules here:
BEGIN THE SCHOOL DAY
Once you and your students have completed each of the steps for success to get your day started you can roll up your sleeves and jump into the instruction, activities and everything else that makes the day productive and meaningful.
Now that the morning routine is behind us you are ready to learn more about organizing and managing other aspects of the school day such as: